Online hearings and working from home

23/03/2020

COVID-19: A message from President Tim Game SC

In the last twenty four hours the Supreme Court of NSW and the District Court have issued statements indicating that those courts will be using remote technologies as much as possible and considerably reducing physical appearance work. Links to these statements are provided below.

It appears that circumstances have changed considerably over the last few days and that physical appearances in court will be the exception rather than the rule. If members do need to appear in court in person, they should follow health and safety guidelines regarding social distancing both inside and outside the court. The Association’s priority is the health and safety of its members and judicial officers, court staff and other users of the court system. As mentioned in previous communications, any member who finds themselves in a situation that may jeopardise their health and safety should bring that situation to the attention of the court and also to the Bar Association so that steps may be taken to address the situation.

Second, over the past week or so various courts have adopted technological solutions to enable the increased use of online hearings. Various technologies are being employed. The Association’s Innovation and Technology Committee is putting together resources to assist members in dealing with these technologies together with an email helpline which will be made available to members in the coming days.

Third, the Bar Council Executive and I will be holding a teleconference with heads of Chambers tomorrow afternoon in a broad-ranging discussion regarding the effect of COVID-19 precautionary arrangements of the NSW Bar. If there are matters of concern in this regard you should feel free to raise them with your Head of Chambers tomorrow morning so they can be raised at the meeting.

Fourth, as of this afternoon, the New South Wales Bar Association has implemented a remote work policy until further notice. Although the Association’s premises will not be occupied through this time we will continue to offer a full range of services to members online and remotely during usual office hours. In relation to particular areas of the Association:

  • Certification enquiries should be sent to certification@nswbar.asn.au Please do not send any correspondence in hard copy, as this will not be received;

  • Staff of the Professional Conduct Department are continuing to work with the Professional Conduct Committees to progress complaints, show cause events and issues relating to practising certificates as quickly as possible. All material, marked for the attention of the relevant staff member should be sent to pcd@nswbar.asn.au;

  • The Bar Library is now closed to visitors and no further hard copy materials may be borrowed. Any books currently on loan will not be due back until further notice. The library can be contacted for assistance at libref@nswbar.asn.au;

  • Other enquiries should be directed to reception@nswbar.asn.au and the Association’s general reception line (02) 9232 4055. Calls and emails will be monitored and responded to.

Finally, last week I referred to the New South Wales Bar Association's consolidated guide to the various COVID-19-related Court arrangements in NSW and Federal Courts and Tribunals. The guide covers information for those attending court as well as up to date information on procedural changes being made in view of the coronavirus pandemic in the various jurisdictions. The guide has been updated in terms of recent developments and includes today's updates from:

• The High Court of Australia;

• The Federal Court of Australia – a special measures information note and a practitioners' guide to conducting hearings using Microsoft Teams;

• Family Court of Australia and the Federal Circuit Court have today released a Face-to-Face Interview Protocols for Child Dispute Services and Registrars, an Update to the Profession regarding these Protocols and an associated courtroom diagram;

• The Supreme Court of NSW including an update to Commercial and Real Property List Guide;

• The Land and Environment Court of NSW; and

• The NSW District Court.

Members are advised in this regard that, although the Bar Association is regularly updating the COVID-19 page of its website as information comes to hand, please always double-check the latest court resources directly as developments are changing quickly at this time. Do not make any assumptions regarding your case without first doing so. Links to the various court and tribunal pages are provided in the body of the guide.


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